Caretta caretta Photo Chris Burney ©
This turtle is named for its noticeably large, yellow-brown head.
Loggerheads are medium-to-large sea turtles with an elongated reddish-brown shell. They are found throughout Florida’s coastal waters and are the most common sea turtle nesting on Florida beaches. The underside of the shell is yellowish, and the flippers are reddish brown. Adults weigh 70 to 180 kg (150-400 lb), and are 70 to 125 cm (2.3 to 4 feet) long.
Loggerheads have powerful crushing jaws, which they use to catch fish, squid, crabs, sea urchins and sponges.
In Florida, loggerheads are found in shallow coastal waters, bays and estuaries. Between April and August females come ashore at night during high tide to lay eggs. Between the high tide line and the dunes, they dig a hole and lay about 100 eggs. The process takes about an hour and a half, and a female may nest four times in a season – but then she will not nest again for about two and a half years.
More than 90% of all Loggerhead nesting activity in the world occurs on Florida beaches. The major nesting beaches are between Cape Canaveral and Palm Beach, with more than 40% of all Florida nests near Cape Canaveral. Between 2001 and 2005 approximately 15,000 loggerhead females nested each year on Florida beaches.
The loggerhead is considered THREATENED in the US. Predation on eggs by raccoons and heavy waves from tropical storms cause many nests to be lost.
Because newly hatched turtles head for the lighter part of the horizon, believing it to be the ocean, they are easily confused by artificial lighting. Lost and exhausted, they end up wandering across roads or attracted to the parking lot lights of beach condos. Several Coastal communities now have lighting ordinances called ‘Lights out for Turtles,’ designed to encourage people to turn off unnecessary lighting.
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